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Bill Roache: Soap Star Sorry Over Remarks

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache has said he is "very sorry for any offence caused" after he seemingly claimed victims of sexual abuse are being punished for their behaviour in "previous lives".

The star, who has played Ken Barlow in the ITV soap for more than 50 years, was criticised for the controversial remarks he made to a New Zealand television station.

Speaking to TVNZ, he said: "If you accept that you are pure love ... and therefore live that pure love, these things won't happen to you."

He was then pressed by reporter Garth Bray, who asked: "To some people that sounds perhaps like you're saying victims bring things on themselves. Is that what you're saying?"

The 80-year-old replied: "No, not quite, but then yes I am. Everything that happens to us is the result of what we have been in previous lives."

The comments echo those of Glenn Hoddle who was sacked as England's football manager in 1999 after he was quoted as appearing to suggest disabled people were paying for sins committed in previous lives.

Roache was later asked by Sky News correspondent Becky Johnson: "You appear to have suggested some victims may be paying for things they did in a past life. Is that how you feel?"

The star replied: "No I would not go along and say things like that. I'm not saying that. In this situation where we can only talk about the law. I'm not going to talk about victims or life.

"Life is what we make it. We do come into life to learn from certain experiences and broadly some of the major experiences we have we have asked to go through. This is my understanding of life."

He added: "If you're going to pin me down and start saying 'all victims deserve what they're getting'. No I am not saying that at all."

Roache then issued his apology in a statement, saying: "I would like to say that I am very sorry for any offence that has been caused as a result of my comments.

"I would never say that victims of sexual offences are in any way responsible for the abuse they have suffered and I offer my deepest apologies if anything I have said has been misunderstood in this way.

"I had no intention of causing any kind of distress as a result of my interview and I offer my utmost sympathies to anyone affected by sexual offences and paedophilia."

His original remarks to TVNZ were condemned by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), which said his comments were an insult to abuse victims.

Dr Jon Bird, from NAPAC, condemned Roache's "hippy-dippy" spiritualist beliefs, saying child sex abuse left people with horrific physical and mental scars.

Roache's co-star of 30 years, Michael Le Vell, has been suspended from the ITV soap after he was charged with 19 child sex offences.

Le Vell, whose real name is Michael Turner, appeared in court last month and was bailed until his next appearance in the dock at Manchester Crown Court. Le Vell has denied any wrongdoing.

During his interview with TVNZ, Roache said: "Everyone's innocent until they're proven guilty."

He described paedophilia as "absolutely horrendous" but added: "There's a fringe here ... particularly pop stars who have these groupies, these girls, who are sexually active and sexually mature.

"They don't ask for their birth certificate and they don't know what age they may be. They're certainly not grooming them and exploiting them but they can be caught in this trap."

He added: "These people are instantly stigmatised. Some will be innocent and some will not, but until such time as (any offence) is proven, there should be anonymity for both.

"If someone has done something wrong, the law should take its course. But whether they're proven guilty or not, we should never be judgemental about anyone. We shouldn't go round condemning. We should be forgiving about everything."

However, speaking to Sky News, Roache appeared to excuse the behaviour of some stars in the past. He said: "I'm not blaming anybody for anything but things were different back in the 1970s. People were more tactile.

"I think it's probably unfair to judge too harshly today on things that were done 20 or 30 years ago. There should be a greater understanding that things were different in those days."